When we, the co-founders, started the business, we found that, traditionally, the mattresses were stacked on top of one another at shops, making it almost impossible to try. And no one ever thought of trying out a mattress. Even after customers bought, it was not likely that they could return the mattress or — when they did realize it was not suitable for their house — it was always too late to return the mattress. This became an opportunity for us to enter the market in a different way: Focusing on customer experience.
After becoming a partner with Mekong Capital, we worked to declare Vua Nem’s vision and mission. We wanted to build Vua Nem to be not only the leading mattress retail chain but also “the most trusted expert in providing sleep products and solutions to customers”. We also aligned on a set of core values with one of them being “Dedicated”. By saying dedicated, it was implied that we, collectively, were committed to serving customers from the heart.
I was so glad that we successfully launched the core values. Having them formally stated led to a continuous stream of initiatives to make them come alive in our daily business operations. First, a closed Facebook group called “Nha Nem” (meaning home for Vua Nem’s members) was created to bring all employees together and encourage them to share their experience. Soon afterward, with the help of Minh Giang, I came to discover that having a team called Culture Committee to lead culture activities in the company would get our team members more motivated, involved to become the owners of those core values. My co-founder, Nghia stepped up and led the Committee to meet monthly and generate different initiatives in order to get everyone to be present with our culture and our core values.
It slowly worked. Our team members got to know the behaviors of how to serve customers. They began to remember what to do. But it was not enough. I could not feel the real inspiration or motivation. Not until last year, after reading a book named “Why we sleep”, did I discover for myself what our mission and vision really means.
Sleep is of extreme importance. A sound sleep will bring us a lot of positive energy and creativity for a productive and happy day at work. Or vice versa, a night of poor sleep will make us feel tired and irritable the next day. But we need to sleep a third of our life. Many Vietnamese people have insomnia. Only a few of them are aware of or pay attention to their sleep quality.
This discovery became my turning point. I felt the vision vividly present with me and opened up a new way of seeing how Vua Nem can contribute to the better lives of our people: The right mattress provides proper support to our body, ensures healthy sleep posture, which will also improve our sleep quality and surprisingly, elevate our life experience.
It became even clearer when I talked to Craig, our industry expert from the U.S. Thanks to Craig’s advice, we completely shifted our approach to looking at the path of sequential interactions that a customer goes through with us, rather just purchasing experience. We began to optimize our product range, improve online to offline customer experience with e-commerce and in-store services such as zero interest installments payment, home delivery or 100-day exchange. We also launched a new website focusing on helping everyone to improve their sleep quality. The more actions we took, the more power and confidence we have with our vision. This year, at the Board meeting, we decided to change our core value to “Wow Service”.
That, in turn, became the turning point of the company. The new core value had immediately changed our team members’ experience. For example, recently, I have read a story from one of our delivery team. He was patiently waiting for customers to come home despite continuous delays so he could deliver the mattress. Another case is about helping a customer to carry the mattress up to his house passing all the stairs. At the store level, I was so proud to hear from one of our stores inside an apartment building. The team there knew the area by heart, for instance, which families were going to move to the building so they actively proposed new promotion activities that would be more suitable for their neighbors.
These stories are the momentum of culture and core values that keeps our team members engaged, encourages them to try for themselves, and in turn, share stories of their experiences, and then celebrate achievements.
Gradually, it became clear to me that successful rollout of the core values requires people to take action day-to-day, every day, based on those core values, not just being enrolled in and aware of the core values.
Building a corporate culture is like a mountain with no top. This year, we added two more core values. Every week I can see my team members generating different activities in the group to bring these new values to life. And I find that I am not just a CEO sitting in my office telling others what they should do. I am the leader and partner of my team members on the journey towards our shared vision. So, if you have read this blog and have a chance to meet me in person, you may hear me start our conversation with:
“Hi, did you sleep well last night?”
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Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sector. For more information on Mekong Capital, please visit www.mekongcapital.com.